In European politics this year, only one thing is certain: nothing will go as expected.
The EU is at a critical juncture. For the first time since the launching of European integration, doubts about the future of the EU have been raised by mainstream politicians and large swathes of the European public.
Uncertainty as to the fate of Europe may demotivate voters and help disinformation campaigns often run by foreign powers hostile to the European project or sponsored by clandestine third parties.
Whilst many of these fears are often seen as exaggerated, it is difficult to dismiss the impact of Brexit; for the first time since its inception, a major state in a process of leaving the EU.
Even worse – and like never before – the EU is no longer supported by the sitting US President.
In the 1950s, the United States was the sponsor and co-creator of European integration. All subsequent American administrations have supported the EU, a policy now discontinued by the current American President.
Meanwhile, Russia is actively disrupting the European project by financing parties pushing for the fragmentation of the union and sponsoring disinformation campaigns.
Online artificial amplification has real offline results. It breeds social sentiments hostile to the EU project and lures domestic parties into a honey trap of easy populist solutions.
Disinformation campaigns are taking their toll across the whole of Europe, but it is the most pronounced in Central and Eastern Europe where global powers once again see an opportunity to determine the fate of the continent.
The V4 nations remain staunchly opposed to migration, and the governments in Budapest, Bratislava and Warsaw have professed an attachment to more traditional social and family values, vehemently running campaigns critical of LGBTQ rights.
The weaponisation of culture is also a tool of foreign influence mastered in offline and online disinformation campaigns by Russia.
Now, a new element of uncertainty may add to this already tempestuous background; the results of the next European election could bring a strong showing for eurosceptic parties.
Importantly for this study, the Visegrad countries that joined the EU in 2004 are increasingly standing out in the larger European context.
Three of the four members remain outside the eurozone; Slovakia being the sole Central European country to have adopted the single currency.
There is a growing sense of value distinctiveness in the region, which will most likely be reflected in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament and which will have an impact on the future composition and balance of power in the Parliament.
Visegrad/Insight prides itself on developing scenarios that focus on the region and show trajectories for potential social and political futures. This time, we have teamed up with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in a partnership that resulted in a product sketching out four policy directions for Europe post-2019 elections.
These elections are prone to large online disinformation campaigns. We have invited ABTSHIELD (Anti-Bots and Trolls online platform) to sketch out main lines of attack and countermeasures that are likely to influence electoral campaigns and amplify future policy directions.
Our scenarios are based on the available polling that suggests that whilst pro-European parties will retain an overwhelming majority in the future parliament, the eurosceptics will fare stronger than in the past.
There is a general consensus that the eurosceptic appeal has been boosted by the three following factors: the global economic crisis of 2008, the immigration crisis of 2015 and finally by a coordinated effort of third parties – mostly the Russians but also by some right-wing elements originating from the US.
This is an hour of truth for the EU, which – for the first time in its history – is on its own.
Wojciech Przybylski & Marcin Zaborowski
Visegrad Insight 2 (14) 2019
European Parliamentary #Futures
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Published by Res Publica Foundation
Partner: Konrad Adenauer Foundation
Supported by: ABTSHIELD
Wojciech Przybylski, Editor-in-Chief
Marcin Zaborowski, Senior Associate
Magda Jakubowska, Director of Operations
Galan Dall, Managing Editor
Anhelina Pryimak, Editorial Assistant
Anna Kulikowska-Kasper, Contributor
Paweł Kuczyński, Illustrations
Rzeczyobrazkowe, Graphic Design